Monday, September 30, 2013


This link may not open, but if it does it’s a fascinating report of SouCal firing Lane Kiffin, decided once and for all during Saturday’s game at Arizona State, and delivered to him in person at LAX by Haden personally as the team bus with Kiffin’s luggage went on back to campus. 

But I vowed no more football. Lied and got caught. 

Haden face-fired Kiffin honorably and manly, unlike PennState firing Joe Paterno, also necessary, but shamefully, cowardly, disgracefully by phone.

Still chafing from watching UCF rise toward greatness in the Sunshine State and dreading a once obscure AAC nonentity rising and shining as UFla, which for one ludicrously embarrassing week last season stood at #1 by some computer glitch, dangles at #18. It’s bad word time, and I’ve got ‘em, being a naval officer a lot longer than a priest.

But why be surprised at AAC UCF: there’s AAC Louisville at #7 and why should UCF not be ranked before the season is over, in fact UCF has six votes in the current AP poll. It’s the greeneyed monster living beyond an age when the two Florida teams were UF and Miami; the Seminoles, a girls’ school when I was at Florida, are invariably at least neck and neck and often above the Gators, and even my mother switched from Gators to Seminoles. Next the Knights? The Who? The @\#%&%&$#@# UCF Knights. 

And what were those tall black and gold things their forty jillion screaming fans were waving Saturday? Next, black and gold vuvuzelas. 

Speaking of Kiffin. Incredibly, after Saturday’s game against South Carolina, some UCF fan sent a “Fire O’Leary email?” What an idiot. Too bad fans can’t be fired.

Why diddle about football when America spends more on war than on Lazarus? I should talk about cars or something. OK, this is it once and for all, no more CFB.

Remember the Wide Track Pontiac?


Sunday, September 29, 2013

P'like You're "P" the Priestly Writer

Story, chat in Adult Sunday School this morning to introduce reading and discussion of Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a, the First but not Oldest Creation Story in the Bible. TW+

Let’s pretend, and let me tell a story to set the scene. Play like -- P’like you are Judean, a Jerusalem Jew, and a temple priest. With many other Jews, p’like you recently returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian Exile. You arrive home to find the city and temple a mess, a disaster needing reconstruction. And your job as one of those restoring the temple and the temple cult of worshiping the One True God, the God of Israel seems almost insurmountable. Worse, worst in your eyes as a priest, many of the working class Judean commoners, dirt farmers and   lowly shepherds who were left behind in the Exile -- consorted with Palestinians, worshipers of Baal, and assimilated their pagan religion in which the Baal is god of the fields, and Astarte, his consort for fertility, the Sun is a god, and the Moon is a god, the stars are gods, there are gods in the fields, and in the trees, in the clouds, in the rain, in the ocean and rivers. YHWH, the One God, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses has been forgotten. 

As one of the priests, part of your task is to help call these people back to YHWH the One God. What will you do? Think, think, Priest-man, think.

From your years in Exile, you remember the religion of Babylon, with their hero god Marduk. Marduk, patron god of Babylon, is the victor and conquering hero of a story --  a powerful mythology that may have had origins in ancient Sumeria -- a story that is called Enuma Elish. Enuma Elish means “when on high,” and it’s like bereshith, “in the beginning,” the name of our book Genesis. The Enuma Elish is a powerful story that the priests in Babylon read to the people once a year as their liturgy in a festival of celebration (which may have been the Babylonian king’s birthday, I do not know -- notice that King Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned in our Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah for today). Enuma Elish, which you heard many times, begins, “When on high, heaven had not been named ...” and it proceeds to tell the Babylonian creation story that goes like this, with me making it very short!

Enuma Elish, when on high heaven had not been named -- Before there was earth and dry land, there was the female chaotic monster Tiamat, goddess of the salt water ocean which is chaos itself; and there was the male god Apsu (Abzu), the fresh water god. These two god/goddess mate and produce younger gods and goddesses. Party animals, the youngster gods party too long and too loud, and are out of control. Apsu cannot sleep, becomes angry at the youngster gods and decides to kill them. Ea, son of Anu god of the sky, learns of the plot and kills Apsu. Tiamat is enraged at the murder of her husband, and war breaks out. Damkina, wife of Ea, gives birth to Marduk, a mighty warrior, hailed as “Son of the Heavens.” As war battles on, Marduk kills Tiamat. He then slices her body in two. The part of the body with the ribs he makes into a dome that is the firmament above, holding the waters out. (The ribs are good reinforcement for the arch of the dome). With the rest of Tiamat’s body he makes the dry land. 

This fits the world view of the day, that the dry land of earth is a flat and mountainous disk surrounded by the great salt sea. Above the disk of earth is a blue dome, which sure enough it’s still there, you can go outside and look up and see it. The disk of dry land sits on pillars that hold it up out of the fresh water beneath it, water that feeds rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. The blue dome above the land holds back the fresh water that supplies the rain when the windows are opened. We’ll experience that next week when we study about the Great Flood with Noah and the Ark.

Anyway, in all this, the gods and goddesses find that they have too much to do, are working too hard, no time to play, they need someone to do the work that has to be done; so humans are made to be the servants of the gods and do all the work. Unlike with the God of Israel, with Marduk and company humans are not beloved stewards, but slaves. And the seven day week is not new with Israel, there’s a six-day week, and the seventh day is a nightmarish day of evil horrors when you don’t dare even go out of your house.

OK, we’re still p’liking! Remembering this Babylonian mythology, you the Judean priest returned from Exile in Babylon, decide to write a sacred story correcting not only the Babylonian mythological nonsense, but also setting straight the outrageous Canaanite religion of gods all over the place that the Judean common people swallowed while everybody else was away in exile. 

Your name is “P for priest,” and your corrective story is of the One True God. You call him Elohim, which is plural, “gods” but you mean it both to honor him and to show that Elohim has all the power that the pagans had thought was many gods.

Instead of “Enuma Elish, in the beginning before heaven was named,” your story begins “Bereshith, in the beginning, when Elohim began to create heaven and earth.” 

Today in the Temple, you are going to read your story to the gathered people of Jerusalem. From this day forward, it will be the primary creation story of God’s people Israel, a story in which Elohim begins with churning chaos and brings order. Later, in the Christian era, people will come to realize that it’s God’s own story, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let’s listen to your story. And as we listen, notice how your story, the Priest’s story, puts down, item by item, one by one, all the nonsense of both Babylon and Canaan, and raises up the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.

This is the first time I've done this. Totally dissatisfied with my ranting football blog post from early this morning, I am leaving it up instead of deleting it, but substituting my rambling Sunday school lesson as my real blog for today, September 29. TW+

OH-EFF-EFF & Shame, Uncle Bee

OH-EFF-EFF USC UCF and Shame, Uncle Bee

Long years ago my parishioner Jack had let his house get so run down it was no longer habitable. From the street, looking into the upstairs windows and up, you saw the sky. Holes in roof, floors rotted through, windows knocked out. I asked, let me come visit. He said, "No. I'm right ashamed of it."

I'm right ashamed of it.

Saturday afternoon, fourth quarter, five minutes to play, or was it three minutes, IDK, score 28-18, safe. Score 28-24, score 28-25, Uncle Bubba rises out of chair in frustration, waving arms, shaking fists, restraint to keep from smashing laptop to floor, blasphemies so vile TG Linda was in the kitchen; sitting back down, realizing UH-OH and rushing upstairs for handfullaaspirin and hot water to dissolve immediately into bloodstream, back downstairs, left family room for a room sans TV, and officially gave up football for all time forever. This is my solemn vow.

Where's my old B&W TV? Where's that brick I keep in here for football? It was a return of olden days not golden days when I stopped watching football altogether forever because when Gators lost it was unbearable. Next I had two teams. Now I have three teams, no four teams. No, five actually. When one of my teams does badly, I'm not a good sport, in fact I'm a bad sport and I'm right ashamed of it.

Didn’t the Soothsayer foretell in his blog post two weeks ago, “Gamecocks, don’t be gamecocky about UCF in Orlando," didn’t he? WELL, DIDN’T HE??? And nevertheless, Saturday afternoon in Turnoverlando, otherwise known as Interception City, the Knights (the WHO?) the Knights, dammit, the UCF Knights of the AAC (the what? the AAC) held South Carolina, the USC Gamecocks of the SEC scoreless 0-10 the first half. Heart attack time. Third quarter and first of the fourth quarter, OK, they're coming back, it's obvious there had been some serious chitchat during halftime in the SC locker room, and SC came back -- 

until UCF made it 28-18 and rising. 

I have watched Coach slam his hat to the ground in the Swamp, but I have never seen him so near the thundering apoplexy that struck The Captain down in Treasure Island, as when he called time out after a fourth quarter penalty. The Knights (the WHO?) the Knights, the UCF KNIGHTS DITH, blasted through to make it 28-24 and 28-25 with plenty of time left to score again if they decided to, at which point Uncle Bubba stormed upstairs for aspirin. Half hour later calm enough to check online and make sure it had closed 28-25, which it had done. USC 28 UCF 25. Get serious. 

TV. Off. OH-EFF-EFF. No football. No Seminoles. No Tide. No TxA&M. No BigBlue. No PennState. And sure as aitch no Gator football. Nov 16: only game of regular season when I have no favorite. Nov 30: glass of wine and a nap, because it's not gonna be pretty.

Last week my celebration was the Aggies are not on the UF schedule this year. My relief this morning is the Gators are not playing the Knights -- whoever heard of the UCF Knights -- who next thing will want an SEC emblem on the field when they play.

Holy Christmas and OH-EFF-EFF spells off.

Maybe instead of the brick I'll get that nitrostat prescription filled.

Whoever is playing the Seminoles

Saturday, September 28, 2013

... island home.

... island home.

Yesterday a Facebook friend shared a video titled “Some Strange Things Are Happening To Astronauts Returning To Earth” that, aptly describing itself as profound, shows pictures that are -- the only word is profound -- profoundly moving. Pictures those explorers and pioneers took of our planet from space, from the moon a generation ago, from a space station window, by one or other of them dangling, floating cabled as we have seen them cabled to prevent drifting off into the infinite -- pictures -- with the beautiful earth hanging in black space, vulnerable -- stir one’s emotions incomparably. 

My adult Sunday school class is reading and discussing Bereshith, Genesis, our sacred creation myth about our Beloved Creator’s beginning with us. Not tomorrow, but perhaps the following Sunday, we will be into its story of The Flood, in which a disillusioned and brokenhearted Creator becomes punishing Destroyer, returns Earth momentarily to primeval darkness and chaos of the deep,

and starts over.

In the news yesterday was a U.N. scientific report attributing global warming to human doings, which inexplicably we have twisted into political ranting. Chemical gassing of humans by their political leader. Gunning down of other humans in a now-collapsed shopping mall in Africa by religious madmen and calls from their spiritual overlord for similar attacks within the U.S. One might think we are too far removed to be concerned, but a look, not only at two imploding, crumbling skyscrapers but at our island home from space shows that we are but specks on a speck hanging in blackness.

Why do colonies of ants fight to the death instead of coexisting -- they are not as -- important as they -- non-think. And I, the landowner too tall and distant to be seen by them, will be eradicating them in time anyway.

Comes to mind his book title that James Baldwin took from the Negro spiritual line, "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time". And Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. We don’t really need God -- to destroy us, that is: as a race we are sufficiently suicidal unto ourselves, a leukemic body bound on self-destruction, red against white. Eons hence, some Noachian successor to God’s failed experiment will look back and see that we did it incompetently and irrevocably.

From our Book of Common Prayer, a eucharistic prayer 

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another. 
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

We don’t really believe this, and we have been beyond learning since the day we were turned out of the Garden and cherubim with flaming swords took station to guard the gates.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Apples Everywhere

Enuma Elish

When on high the heaven had not been named ... ” -- about Tiamat and Apsu and celebrating the victorious, conquering and reigning god Marduk, the ancient Mesopotamian/Babylonian creation epic from earlier Sumerian creation mythology -- and our own later, corrective, “In the beginning when Elohim created the heavens and the earth ...” focusing on our One God -- will be our topic in adult Sunday school class this week.

We have been discussing Genesis chapters 2, 3 and 4, the ancient campfire stories of how Yahweh made a human to till the ground in the Garden, then split the human in two to be male and female company for each other; then the droll story of how Nachash the wiley serpent came between the naked humans and led them to disobey Yahweh, causing us to be thrown out of the pleasant Garden so that we now have to struggle to make a living; then how human sin grew to fratricidal murder. 

Next we would be discussing the story of how the humans became more and more wicked in sin, eventually causing the Creator to throw up His hands in anger and disgust, drown the whole lot of them, and start over with the one righteous man Noah and his family. I say we would be because that’s not quite what we’re going to do. We’re going to backtrack and have a go at Genesis chapter 1, our story in which Elohim creates heaven and earth in six days and then on the seventh day commissions for Self and us the Sabbath, a time of refreshment and rest.

We are “taking the break” and going back to Genesis 1 before talking about The Flood Story that begins in Genesis 5, because The Flood Story as we have it is a continuation that is a melding, like shuffling cards, of two stories, one involving God as called Elohim and the other involving God as called Yahweh. So, we need to backtrack and get it all together before tackling The Flood Story with Noah and the Ark.

Everyone is invited and welcome. We meet in the parish library, the building at the east end of the brick path, at 9:15 o’clock, between worship services, every Sunday morning. Do come, bless The Lord with your love for his Word, and get your applecart of certainties upset. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oh, It's You Again, Is It?

Who me? Not me.

Many years ago I lost the friendship and respect of a favorite young parishioner by mentioning in a sermon that a man had come to the rectory door the prior evening, late Saturday night. I thought he had come for food, which I was prepared to help, but after standing on the front porch listening to him for a few minutes I had sent him packing. There is nothing like judgment. Being judged, that is.

The man was tipsy and slurring that he wanted to talk about how he could stop drinking. I told him to sober up and come back and then we could talk, but not ten o’clock Saturday evening. That I never saw him again is not part of this story. Nor is it part of the story that the relationship with that parishioner was foreverafter somewhat reserved, likely in part because of my lingering memory and experience of having been judged as I thought, unfairly.

Not uncommonly set absurdly on a pedestal, a minister seems especially subject to the judgment of everybody around who hasn't worn our shoes. And those of us who have lived in a rectory, parsonage, have different experience of life than others, especially experience with the poor. More than once I have felt the guilt of Dives, the rich man in Jesus' parable at Luke 16:19-31. It would have been guilt not shame, seeing that Dives seems to have had no shame, only concern for his own thirst in the flames of Hell. 

The same people keep coming back for help again and again and again. One must observe at least minimal guidelines, rules. Some people, when you inform them you have no cash to give them but offer them a voucher for gasoline or a bag of groceries, will storm away cursing you. It's unnerving, I've had it happen. Some people are so grateful they promise to bring groceries when they get better off. I heard this promise often, though never saw the promised groceries, but when people promise it, smile kindly, they are sincere-of-the-moment and their pride is at stake. If you are a soft touch, some people see to it that word gets around, meaning traffic to your door will increase. Some people come to your door with the same sad story time after time, apparently thinking that you are a fool, as stupid as they are. With that in mind, I remember one pathetic soul who, knowing my rule was “once a week only,” came for groceries every Thursday without fail, and was startled when I started greeting her by name, she had thought she was anonymous. She was one whom I learned not to greet saying “How are you?” because her set answer was to whine “Shug, I ain’t doin’ s’ good” and then launch into complaints about her surgeries. (I was not her Shug).

Luke notwithstanding, dealing with the poor can turn almost any parish priest into a jaundiced cynic, BTDT. In one breath Jesus warns we’re going to hell like the rich man because we didn’t feed Lazarus, while in the next breath he says “the poor you will have with you always” so break open the costly nard and anoint my feet. What’s the deal, Man?

In a recent blog I featured a prairie dog begging, “Buddy, can you spare a nut?” He's back, returns in Luke's gospel this coming Sunday. The scene bothers me, especially the text. The text with the prairie dog says, “There is about this scene that makes you feel it is a cosmic moral test, the failure of which will doom your eternal soul.” This begs thought.

The cosmic moral test, the failure of which will doom your eternal soul, is not whether you hand out a nut and close the door knowing you have just encouraged him to send his buddy. The cosmic moral test is whether, in your compassion, you have the wisdom and patience to help him in such a way that he can quit begging. This is not only a social issue, it's also a moral issue, a political issue and an economics issue. But it's a test nonetheless. You get an extra ten points for not being influenced by your knowledge that he doesn’t want permanent help or to quit begging, he is content to think you won’t remember him when he knocks on your door again next Thursday.

My certainty is that I have failed the cosmic moral test by ignoring the issue and simply handing out groceries and vouchers and going back to sermon preparation. There is no end of distress in this quandry. The blessing that I am no longer a parish priest living in a rectory, parsonage, manse and calmly answering the door to a beggar several times a day, and seeing the same prairie dog at least once a week, does not remove the subtle and deadly certainty that, together with the society in which I live, in making these folks more and more dependent on me, I failed the cosmic moral test, and am as sure for damnation and hellfire as the doomed soul of Luke's gospel.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What, You Again?

Brother, can you spare a nut?

“Lazarus and the Rich Man” (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus’ story that is our gospel for next Sunday, returns to mind Jonathan Turley’s post “Brother, can you spare a nut?”, the wrenchingly pathetic prairie dog looking up plaintively, beseechingly -- at me. Fourteen years of my life were spent confronting him/her daily at my rectory door, knocking as steadily and persistently and unsurrenderingly as Jesus’ poor widow pestering the judge, or Jesus’ neighbor knocking at midnight after lights out, or Poe’s raven tapping, rapping. He never goes away and there’s no use napping. If 14 x 365 = more than five thousand and he knocked, rapped, gently tapped on average 1.34 times a day those fourteen years, I resignedly faced him almost seven thousand times and easily understand Dives‘ indifference.

More later, perhaps. For now, apologies for having been elsewhere. Again this morning, Anu Garg distracted me with today’s word, polysemus. Then his usage example, the Greek word pharmakon and wandering down that trail into Plato’s Phaedrus, which I’ve never read so downloaded and started reading until hearing the rapping, tapping. 

Yes, who is it?

It’s either the ebony bird or that blasted prairie dog.

It's the clock.

Bible Study with a light meal today, starts with Eucharist at 11:30 in the sanctuary at Holy Nativity, then pick the bones of Lazarus for lunch.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013



Mamoo, my maternal grandmother, whose name was Mamie, had exactly enough grandsons, me, Walt, Bill, Chuck, Lowell, Paul, to be her pallbearers, and we were. But as we and she got older she had trouble naming the one she was speaking to, and she would go through a string of increasing frustration and building agitation -- “Bill, Wilbur, Walt, THING” she would shout, no matter which one of us it was.

Sometimes I call Ryan “grandson,” but it’s OK because he’s been sort of my extra-that for the past thirteen years plus his mother started introducing me as “Ryan’s grandfather” a dozen years ago. When people ask, “Grandfather on which side?” I just reply, “Whatever you say.” Sunday I caught myself calling Christian “Buddy,” which I must not do, because there’s a scriptural element of “claiming in naming”, but also a hint of “bonding” that eventually becomes painful. Anyone who thinks “bonding” with a child is not excruciating has never seen a son go off in the Army or dropped off a daughter at her college for the first time. The child gets through it, the parent never.     

My daily morning email scan with coffee always includes a look at Anu Garg’s word for the day. All are interesting, most of them are familiar, though I don’t work them into a sermon or blog post too quickly lest people realize, “show off, he didn’t know that word, he got it off Wordsmith.” But as well as learning or rekindling great words, it’s good for entertainment and also for Anu Garg’s “thought for the day.” The thought for yesterday was classic, “The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with. - Bruce Springsteen, musician (b. 1949).” So, in the car I listen to “Pops” on Sirius XM. In planning worship liturgy, I always try to choose a closing hymn that folks can hum on the way home, and Sunday afternoon, and maybe hum to make Monday morning tolerable, "to face the world with," as Springsteen says.

Today’s word got me. One never knows what one does or is that there’s a term for. When first daughter was little I called her “Ladybug,” that is, until the day -- she must have been a teen, as a teen she was quite the one to deal with, especially for her mother, the two of them were eternally at it over everything under the roof including daughter would buy a new pair of jeans and immediately take them downstairs to the laundry, throw the one pair of jeans into the washing machine, pour on top of them a full box of Morton’s table salt unless we had ice cream salt in which case it was a box of ice cream salt, turn on the water and fill the tub, and so wash them before ever wearing them, I think it was to “season” them roughed-out looking or something -- this would be called a lost antecedent except that I’ve tried to recapture it -- the day she was mad at me and raged, “I wish you would quit calling me ‘Ladybug,’ I’m not a bug.” Which stunned me because I had meant it so tenderly, but I never called her a pet name again and that was over forty years ago, in biblical terms, a very long time.

For my son, it’s been “Bo.” But also Jody, then Joe, but still “Bo” as he heads for his 53rd birthday in six weeks. For the next daughter, pet names beyond count though I always tried to be sensitive to whether she would protest as her sister had, but she never objected, maybe she always realized it was sheer doting adoration and I couldn’t help it. For a grandson, “Bud,” which sort of flowed over onto the next grandson as well. And I've called Ryan "Bud" from time to time. 

Daughter/Granddaughter, again, pet names without number. Next two granddaughters, one is named for me which I love so stick strictly with her given name; so her sister, just her name also, no hypocorism.



When I went to bed last night I never heard of the word, couldn’t spell it, much less pronounce it, couldn’t have defined it, and this morning I wake up and find out I are one. 

Mr. Safety
Pop (Joe only)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jesus calls us, o'er the tumult ... Christian saying follow me

On my first business trip to Australia some thirty-five years ago, the admiral of the last Navy base I had served before retiring called me and asked if I would take a package down to an Australian naval officer we both knew. John was at sea the day I arrived in Australia, so his wife kindly met me at the airport, drove me round for a bit of sightseeing, and delivered me to my lodgings. It was a Sunday morning, and on the drive we saw flocks of people with baskets roaming hillsides on the outskirts of town. John's wife said they were picking mushrooms, a common weekend outing. I never had the knowledge or courage to pick wild mushrooms, but if you will eat them I will pick them.

At that time I was under contract with the Australian Department of Defence, to conduct seminars for their DoD officials and defence industry executives in Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne about how to do business with the U.S. DoD and American defense industry companies. On that visit, I got to know several Australian military officers and was invited to social functions at officers‘ clubs after hours. A couple of things come to mind from that.

One is that I seemed to have been a sponge at absorbing their English. One evening after having been Down Under a month or so in Oz as they like to call it, at an Australian officers’ club happy hour in Sydney, a naval officer in a group with whom I had been conversing suddenly asked me, “Weren’t we at the naval college together?” I said, “No, I’m American.” He looked at me stunned and said, “American? You’re not American. You don’t have an American accent, you’re as Australian as I am.” 

That was my first hint that I might be able to have a second career as a spy. Linda confirmed it the day I arrived back home in Pennsylvania when she said, "I can't understand you, you have an Australian accent."

The other thing I was thinking about yesterday noon after church, sitting on the outside back screen porch watching the rain, with a glass of wine and my once-a-year little plate of crackers, butter and tiny wedge of blue Stilton, my favorite cheese. It was at one of those Australian navy officers’ club dinners that I learned about butter when you order a plate of assorted cheeses and breads in place of a sweet dessert. I was horrified: spreading butter on bread before cheese seemed like the ultimate invitation for a stroke and heart attack. But that's the way it always came to the table; because without the butter, the cheese falls off your bread or cracker.  

As our 10:30 family service at Holy Nativity ended yesterday morning, my heart was so wrapped in singing our closing hymn “Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult” to the right tune, "saying, Christian, follow me" that I walked right by Christian. He squirmed loose from his mom, darted up the center aisle to the Altar and round behind. Grandfather Tom followed Christian and scooped him up just as he headed toward the vesting room in the back. How was that song again, was it

"saying, Christian, follow me
"Christian saying, Follow me" --  

Holding Christian was the perfect end to a worship service itself perfect not only because of singing an old favorite hymn to the old favorite tune, but also because the rector not I had preached the sermon about the rich man and his manager who acted φρονίμως wisely, prudently, with insight, viscerally, according to his gut. It's the one and only use in the NT of the word φρονίμως, telling us to listen to our gut. 

Finally. "Once upon a time — oh many, many years ago as time is calculated by men — but which ...". Remembering The Littlest Angel, one of the most popular children's books of all time, my mother bought it for me when I was a boy, and it broke my heart, a story of a little boy who had died, and in heaven was homesick, and an angel arranged for the little boy's favorite toy to be brought from his home to him, and it was the time of the Nativity, and all the angels were bringing gifts for the baby Jesus, but this little boy had only his favorite toy but was afraid it would offend God, and God was so moved and touched with the little boy's gift that He sent it into the sky transformed into the Star of Bethlehem, announcing the birth of His Son. 

Life is still and ever breaking hearts. Jordan, a little boy I never knew, 8 - 10 years old, up for heart replacement surgery. Last week a heart came available, and Jordan didn't make it. It's a beautiful day, and please say "Jordan" to God this morning. 

It's a beautiful day. And somewhere beyond the Star of Bethlehem, Jordan lives, is alive with Jesus, the Son of God.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Murder, Football and Redemption

Murder, Football and Redemption

In adult Sunday school this morning, if the rain doesn’t keep everyone away, we’ll read Genesis chapter 4, which tells the J story of Cain murdering Abel and begins an etiology of civilization, humans beginning to settle down. Anglicans, Episcopalians, as usual have more questions than answers; which seems good because religion with questions and doubts is interesting to ponder and permissible to question and doubt; whereas religion with all the answers is not only incredibly boring but inevitably wrong. So, come!

It makes this morning’s post too long, nevertheless, here’s Genesis 4 (NRSV) followed by some questions and stuff.


Cain Murders Abel
Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced[a] a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.”[b] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so![c] Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod,[d] east of Eden.
Beginnings of Civilization
17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methushael, and Methushael the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah bore Tubal-cain, who made all kinds of bronze and iron tools. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
    you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for striking me. 
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
    truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
25 Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has appointed[e] for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.
  1. Genesis 4:1 The verb in Heb resembles the word for Cain
  2. Genesis 4:8 Sam Gk Syr Compare Vg: MT lacks Let us go out to the field
  3. Genesis 4:15 Gk Syr Vg: Heb Therefore
  4. Genesis 4:16 That is Wandering
  5. Genesis 4:25 The verb in Heb resembles the word for Seth 

Notes, questions --

  1. Note that J/JE’s purpose from start to finish, the Garden of Eden through the Flood, is to show the development of sin starting with the first earthling and growing until the entire world is consumed in sin and God has to destroy everything and start over with a new creation in Noah.
  2. Cain and Abel cultural conflict between farmers/tillers, and shepherds whose flocks ruin the land they graze on.
  3. We can ponder it, but the story does not explain why the Lord likes Abel’s offering and not Cain’s offering. For me, Cain brings a bushel of wheat while Abel roasts a lamb, so there’s no question of which is the favorite offering! Apparent anachronism of people not yet having permission to kill animals and eat meat seems not to bother the ancient storyteller. ? Is the story told this way instead of Abel killing Cain because the ancient Hebrews were wandering tribesmen herding flocks who saw themselves as the first victims of sin? IDK
  4. This is not only a murderous family feud, it’s a religious battle. Cain has shed Abel’s sacred blood on the altar of Cain’s sacrifice, the field where he grew the grain of his offering to God, blasphemy beyond measure.
  5. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain is rude, impertinent, disrespectful to the Lord, showing contempt and defiance. This is not just a civil crime, J writes in a theocratic culture in which sin and crime are indistinguishable.
  6. Is Cain his brother’s keeper? Perhaps he is meant to have been even more than neighbor and “keeper” but his brother’s brother in community. “Neighbor/keeper” is not the same as “brother.”     
  7. Religiously, Cain has substituted himself for God by deciding to take life, which was God’s authority alone, as Adam substituted himself for God as the decision-maker in the garden. Notice that sin/crime grows more wicked.
  8. God shows mercy to Cain with the protective “mark of Cain” just as God shows mercy to Adam and Eve by making clothing for them.
  9. Is punishment becoming more civilized, measured, equitable, not enraged massacre of vengeance?
  10. “Nod” is wandering.
  11. If the long story seems disjointed, doesn’t hold together well, it is so. It seems to be various stories cobbled together by the storyteller as part of his agenda to  show the progression of human sinning to a state of total sinfulness.
  12. 4:23 part of a poem seemingly unrelated, except that it includes the sin element?
  13. Disobedience -> deceit -> fratricide/murder -> total sinful wickedness of humanity.
  14. 4:26 use of the Name YHWH: is this the same God who names himself to Moses in Exodus chapter 3?

For a young man who last night threw his first pass in a college football game, Tyler Murphy redeemed himself well as Florida's QB and doesn't have to take a back seat to Driskell or anyone else.

And counter to some Sunday morning writers, Alabama did not "cruise past" Colorado State. McIlwain redeemed himself very well against his old buddies by holding Bama to two TDs and a field goal the first half, then scoring against the mighty Tide and holding them scoreless in the third quarter. The outcome was inevitable, and a win's a win, but nobody got their axx whipped, and Colorado State proudly earned their $1.5 million, it was no cupcake.

And, my beautiful girls were at the FSU game last night, with the Girl Scouts, in the rain, and wearing FSU shirts. Go 'Noles. not. Well just this once for love of granddaughters.

76-0. It's not a game, it's a business, but shame anyway.

My hopes this season. Bama Oregon at Miami, not Ohio State now or ever. And ABM, Anyone But Manziel for Heisman. 


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Holiest Father


"This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity."

Pope Francis, in an interview in which he said the Roman Catholic Church had become "obsessed" with gay people, abortion and contraception.

Immediately after he was elected, Pope John XXIII was approached by two women from his family, seems to me it was elderly aunts. They came up to him hesitantly and fell on their knees at his feet, reaching for his hand to kiss his ring. Not one for putting on airs, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli said, “Get up, get up, it’s only me.” That pope, who is quoted as often saying it was time to open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air, convened Vatican II, which brought the church momentarily out of the dark ages into the light of hope. Myself no Roman Catholic except by pre-Reformation heritage in Germany and England, had hoped to see his likeness again in popes that followed him, but not so. Even Pope John Paul II, with saintly qualities of humanity without, brought little refreshing within, the church. 

And the mettle of Joseph Ratzinger, staunch German pontiff who was never even a parish priest, was shown when he was prefect for the doctrine of the faith from his bastion in the Roman curia. In years after Vatican II the church seemed to long for the good old days of The Inquisition. Comes to mind recent cases of nuns chastised and disciplined by Rome or their bishops for giving too much attention to caring for the poor and hungry instead of to the church's primary cultural programs against abortion, gays, and contraception.

Who would have thought it? No one could have thought it much less begin to innovate, implement and change it but a Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He is the second breath of fresh air of which Roncalli spoke. Pope Francis: may God grant him long years. 

Do I, not Roman but Anglican, have a right to express these sentiments? Indeed. Though not under controllng authority of Rome since Cranmer and Luther, we are under Rome's strong influence, because almost every thought word and deed from the Vatican flows over onto us and affects us in some way, sooner or later. So, yes, I'm entitled.